At practice Tuesday, Shoreham-Wading River coach Paul Koretzki planned to put his girls through an annual test. He’d line up cones along the track, then have the girls begin at the starting point for the 300.
“They run and we see how many cones they can get in 40 seconds,” Koretzki said. “If they get the last one, they’re Shannon and Laura.”
That would be Shannon McDonnell and Laura Lee, two of the top returning runners for the Wildcats. McDonnell, who will run track at Yale next year, had a tremendous winter season last year as a junior. She won the league title in the long jump and was second in the 600 and third in the 300. Her best run in the 600 came at the state qualifier, when she ran 1 minute 37.65 seconds to win the event and advance to the state championship.
Koretzki said McDonnell will start off running the 1,000 and 300 before focusing back to the 600 later in the season.
Lee, a junior, also ran the 600 at the state qualifier, finishing in seventh place. She can also run the 1,000 and 300. She finished second in the 1,000 at the league championship last year.
The Wildcats were second as a team at the league championship last year, finishing 15 points behind Bayport-Blue Point.
The distance runners will be a strength for the Wildcats. Eighth-grader Kaitlyn Ohrtman, an all-county cross country runner, will run distance events along with senior Audrey Kelly.
Junior Kylie Trettner, an all-league race walker, returns for the Wildcats. She trained last year with Danielle Opatovsky, who was an all-American for Shoreham in the race walk.
In the field events the Wildcats return sophomore Madison Hubner in the shot put.
The Riverhead Blue Waves are led by first-year head coach Justin Cobis, who has been with the program for three years.
“It’s nice because we have a lot of kids coming back from the spring and from last winter who did some good things that we can build on,” he said. “And we actually have a lot of new blood in the program. We have some young kids that are starting to get some experience.”
Some of the top returners for Riverhead include seniors Fatima Brown and Rachel Harrison-Smith. Brown is a jumper/sprinter who finished fourth last year in the long jump at the league championship. Harrison-Smith was a ninth-place finisher in the 1,500 at the league championship.
Sophomore Kyra Braunskill, who had a strong season last spring as a freshman, should be one of the top triple jumpers in the county. She jumped 35 feet 10 inches at last year’s division championship in the spring.
Sophomore Rachel Conti will run middle distance events for Riverhead. She had a strong season last year, placing fourth in the 1,000 at the league championship. In the shot put the Blue Waves return Madison Blom. She was sixth in the shot at the league championship last year as a freshman.
The biggest name from last year, Juliana Marcucci, who narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet in the 1,500, did not return to Riverhead. Cobis said Marcucci, a senior, transferred out of the district.
“She’ll definitely be missed, but we have such a great, deep group this year that they’ll do fine,” Cobis said. “We wish her luck.”
The McGann-Mercy Monarchs have big shoes to fill after Olivia Schumann graduated. Schumann was the small-school county champion in the 300 and also ran on the school’s 4 x 200 relay team that won first place at the county championship. Two other members of that relay team also graduated.
The Monarchs also had a strong 4 x 400 relay team last year that finished fourth at the state qualifier, competing against every team in the county.
The Monarchs return seniors Sasa Vann in the sprints as well as Tori Tremble, who also ran on the 4 x 200 relay last year.
In the middle distances, the Monarchs feature sophomore Delina Auciello and eighth-grader Meg Tuthill.
Two seniors for Mercy are Lauren Valle, who will run the 1,500, 3,000 and race walk, and Emily Venesina, who will run the 1,000 and 1,500.
In the field events the Monarchs feature seniors Shannon Nunez, Catherine Andes and Bianca Compas in the shot put.
“I’d say last year we really focused on the relay,” said Mercy coach Gregg Cantwell. “I think this year we’re going to do more individual stuff because we don’t have quite as deep of a team. If a relay happens to pop up in the middle of the season, I’ll focus on the really a little more.”
Cantwell said the goal is for as many girls to make the county championship and state qualifier meets as possible.
The team opens the season with its first crossover meet Saturday at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.